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Wed, 10.11.1911

Jo Jones, Jazz Drummer born

Jo Jones

*Jo Jones was born on this date in 1911. He was a Black drummer, one of the most influential in jazz history.

Born Jonathan Jones in Chicago, Illinois, he moved to Alabama, where he learned to play the saxophone, piano, and drums. He worked as a drummer and tap dancer at carnival shows until joining Walter Page's band, the Blue Devils, in Oklahoma City in the late 1920s. He recorded with trumpeter Lloyd Hunter's Serenaders in 1931 and joined pianist Count Basie's band in 1933. Known as Papa Jo Jones, he, Basie, guitarist Freddie Green, and bassist Walter Page were some of the more important rhythm sections in jazz.

Jones took a brief break for two years in the military. He worked with the band until 1948 and played in the Jazz at the Philharmonic concert series. Jones left the band in the late 1940s and created an image for himself. He was one of the first drummers to promote using brushes on drums and shift the role of timekeeping from the bass drum to the hi-hat cymbal. Jones is regarded as the premier jazz drummer of the Swing era and the transitional figure between classic and modern jazz drumming. He incalculablely influenced major drummers such as Buddy Rich, Kenny Clarke, Roy Haynes, Max Roach, and Louie Bellson.

He also starred in several films, most notably the musical short Jammin' the Blues in 1944. In 1979, Jones was inducted into the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame for contributing to the Birmingham, Alabama, musical heritage. In 1985, Jones received an American Jazz Masters fellowship awarded by the National Endowment for the Arts. In contrast to drummer Gene Krupa's loud, insistent pounding of the bass drum on each beat, Jones often omitted playing bass drum.

Jones also continued a ride rhythm on the high hat while it was continuously opening and closing instead of the common practice of striking it while it was closed. Jones's style influenced the modern jazz drummer's tendency to play timekeeping rhythms on a suspended cymbal, now known as the ride cymbal. He died on September 3, 1985.

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